Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christ Mass!

What a beautiful but cold morning it was.  I had the majority of the wrapping done beforehand, but stayed up until after midnight sorting the stocking loot.  My daughter couldn't sleep, so made sure I couldn't sleep.  My youngest son woke up around 2 AM soaking wet and I had to help him change his clothes.  Of course, the older kids got up in the wee hours of the morning.  Consequently, I got very little sleep. 

We let the kids open their presents before Mass, since their was plenty of time.  My third son signed on to serve at the Christ Mass, so we all went this morning.  I, too, volunteered to participate afterwards, and read the second of the readings.  However, I practiced the readings for Christmas Day.  As the first reader read, I realized that we were reading the Christmas Eve Mass readings.  Well, I whipped out my hymal/Mass book and looked up the second reading and rehearsed under my breath.  I was actually kind of glad because the reading from Titus was much shorter than the one from Hebrews and didn't include the word refulgence in it.  I had never heard the word before and spent a lot of time last night saying it over and over--that you Merriam-Webster online.  The reading went well; I didn't embarrass myself. 

After Mass, it was a rush home to get back to serious play.  Of course that means for me, picking up boxes, wrappings, bows, ribbons, cutting toys out of boxes, loading batteries into various devices, reading instructions and game rules, stopping fights, keeping the dog from eating things (we have one that eats litterally everything; the other day we found a half eaten aluminum can in the back.  One of her favorite snacks is charcoal), helping my daughter sew her Hello Kitty pillow together, looking at videos online that my husband thinks are funny, and generally being talked to like I'm 5 by everyone who is talking at me all at the same time.  Dinner is cooking.  The kitchen is half-way clean.  The dishwasher is running.  All is well at the moment.

We missed our friends from the other side of town at Mass this morning.  They called last night to ask if one of our other sons could substitute for theirs at the altar if they didn't make it.  Many in their family are sick this weekend and they didn't know if they could make.  If The Mom sees this, it is okay, it was covered.  I hope all are doing well. 

Today's readings from our Mass (the first 2 and the Psalm from the Christmas Midnight Mass readings and the Gospel for today):  Isaiah 9:1-6, Psalm 96, and Titus 2:11-14

The Gospel was John 1:1-18

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through Him, and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

A man named John was sent from God.  He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came to be through Him, but the world did not know Him.
He came to what was His own, but His own people did not accept Him.
But to those who did accept Him He gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in His name, who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.

And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw His glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.

John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘The One who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because He existed before me.’” 

From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God.  The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed Him."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Thin Man and Another Popular Misconception

Recently, I watched one of my favorite movies:  1934's "The Thin Man" starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.  Few people know, and I just recently learned, that the "thin man" is *not* William Powell's Nick Charles.  The "thin man" is the man whose murder Nick solves in the first movie.  It was so popular a movie that they kept the "thin man" in the title of all five sequels.
Why do I bring this up?  It was and is a popular misconception that the "thin man" was Nick Charles.  It reminds me of the myriad of misconceptions about Catholicism.  One of the biggest, even among Catholics, is that the Immaculate Conception refers to Our Lord Jesus' conception.  This is not true.  The immaculate conception refers to St. Mary's conception, always has. 

"We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful." [Ineffabilis Deus (The Immaculate Conception) Pope Pius IX]

St. Ann and the Immaculate Conception

A dogma "...according to a long-standing now understood to be a truth appertaining to faith or morals, revealed by God, transmitted from the Apostles in the Scriptures or by tradition, and proposed by the Church for the acceptance of the faithful. It might be described briefly as a revealed truth defined by the Church..." []  In other words, in order to call yourself a Catholic, you must believe a dogma.  If you don't even know what that dogma is, how can you believe it?  How do you know you believe it?  The Immaculate Conception is an official dogma of the Church.  You must believe it.  If you don't, call yourself a protestant because that is what you are--you are protesting the teaching of the Church.

St. Mary & Our Lord Jesus
 So, next time someone asks you, 'What is the Immaculate Conception?" simply answer, 'It is the belief that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved of all stain of original sin from the moment of her conception in her mother's womb.'  St. Ann conceived St. Mary in the usual way with her loving husband.  But, St. Mary's Son, God the Son, gave her a special gift; She was to be the new Eve and received the same gift, no original sin on the soul.  The difference between St. Mary and Eve is that St. Mary always obeyed God, and said "Yes!" to Him when He sent the angel to her.  She thus became the spotless vessel into which Our Lord Jesus Christ, Immanuel (God with us), was born.  What a wonderful miracle to remember at this time of year.  The spotless Ark bearing the Word of God. 

So, now you know.  Don't mistake the "Thin Man" for Nick Charles.  And, don't mistake the Immaculate Conception for the Virgin Birth.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Advent

     Today we light the fourth candle on the Advent wreath.  To tell the truth, I paid little attention to the readings at Mass.  I was thinking so much about our RE children's play and caroling that I was kind of in another place. 
     The play and caroling went well.  The kids all had fun and we had a better participation than in the past for our last class of the calendar year.  Last year, and for the past few years, we've had a loud Christmas party, video, craft day.  I never like that class day.  It was chaotic, messy, noisy, and completely without much purpose.  Our newest RE director decided to have caroling because in the Catholic Church we don't celebrate Christmas until Christmas Mass.  So, we sing very few actual Christmas carols.  She wanted to have a caroling day for the kids and their parents.  Then it evolved into a short Christmas play with caroling between scenes.  It went off beautifully.  I hope we do it again next year.  I think it helps the kids remember the "Reason for the season" better than that noisy, pointless party we had before. 

Merry Christ Mass!

Readings for the fourth Sunday of Advent:  First reading:  Isa. 7:10-14; Psalm 24; Second reading:  Rom 1: 1-7

The Gospel reading for today: 
"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,  but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home."
Matthew 1:18-24

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Rant

Christmas used to be my favorite time of year.  Now it is just full of frustration and stress.  I hate being a wife and mother at Christmas.  I usually get few if any presents.  I never get what I want.

What I don't enjoy:
1)  A messy house.  Not one person cleans up after themselves, not one.  Chore chart you say?  It's on the wall--now what?  It is my responsibility to remind everyone? 
2)  The School schedule ignored.  I've tried very hard to stop being angry all the time.  Consequently, the kids no longer take me or their school work seriously.  We are one week from Christmas Day and not one of them is done with their semester's work.  Today, on my schedule, would have been the last day of school until the New Year.  Sigh.  Now I can't enjoy baking and decorating next week.
3)  The fact that I cannot do housework and have any of the children do their school work at the same time.  Even when I am cleaning in the same room, they stop working.
4)  My husband who gets up at o-dark-thirty, wakes me up every time--even on SATURDAY, the only day I could sleep in, but can nap anytime he pleases.
5)  The fact that I am about 30 pounds over weight (since about 17 years ago, when I started having kids).  I am so stressed and tired, I cannot motivate myself to exercise.
6)  Feeling guilty about feeling stressed and angry.  I sure have a lot more than most in my situation in life. 
7)  Have almost no friends at this time of year.  My sister was once my best friend, now I never even hear from her.  Their was someone who I thought was a friend who, apparently, has no time for me.  I have been cultivating a relatively new girl friendship but we're so busy, it is hard to get together. 

Now, I'll see if I can count my blessings:
1)  I can receive Christ in the Eucharist.  In this way, Christ is always with me in a very tangible and real way.
2)  I have become involved in Catholic Apologetics in the last year or so.  And, even though he was condescending, one prot 'apologist' actually called me (well, not me personally but a group I belong to) one of the "new crop of Catholic apologists."
3)  I completed my first class on my way to receiving a Bachelor's degree in Theology.  I have yet to receive my final grade, but I'll just be happy to pass.
4)  My oldest son is still with us.  My son has survived four St. Nicholas Days after he was hospitalized in a near coma.  Type 1 diabetes is a serious illness not taken very seriously any more, mostly because the treatment usually results in a lifelong treatment.  Only a few short decades ago it was a death sentence.  Praise God for the timing.
5)  My five year old is learning his letters.
6)  A couple of my kids have problems in school but none have learning disabilities. 
7)  My oldest got 162 on his PSAT.  Yeah!  A full 30 points higher than on his practice test at home.
8)  My parents are still alive.  I should call my mother more often.
9)  I have lovely new white counters in my kitchen.
10)  I will enjoy making the planned gingerbread village this year. 
11)  There's a beautiful $20 Douglas fir tree in my living room.
12)  We can get the kids at least one thing they really want for Christmas.
13)  I have a long distance friend who trusts me enough to be a contributor and an editor on his blog.  Thanks S.W.  I appreciate the trust.
14)  One son will be an altar boy at Christ's Mass on December 25th.

Second list outweighs the first.  Praise the Lord!  I've got nothing to complain about.  Rant done.

Let us remember the "Reason for the season"--Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Third Sunday of Advent

My apologies to any readers who may have been awaiting my 3rd post on Advent.   The rose colored candle is lit for our joy of the imminent coming of Christ.

First, Sunday:  1st reading was Isa. 35:1-6a, 10.  The Psalm was 146.  The second reading was James 5: 7-10.  The Gospel was:

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”

Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

St. John the Baptist by Titian
 As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Matthew 11:2-11

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

It is a special day of rejoicing for this family.  It is the fourth anniversary of my eldest son's trip to the ER and the begining of  his journey as a diabetic.  The nurses in the PICU asked him what day it was (in this way they can measure the patient's cognizance--he was in and out of consciousness that first day) and he said, "Saint Nicholas Day."  Of couse, it being a Baptist hospital, they did not understand.  They thought he was confused and thought it was Christmas.  We laughed a little and explained that today was indeed the feast day of St. Nicholas, the man who's image and generous deeds would evolve into Santa Claus. 

We rejoice on this day and say a special thank you prayer to this special saint in heaven who watched over our son that year.  Today, we set out the kids shoes like we did when living in Germany.  The kids receive candy and one small toy to enjoy this special day in Advent.  In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one." 

"Who is St. Nicholas?"
"The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

"Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th..."

"Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need."

"One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver."

Second Sunday of Advent

This second Sunday promised to be like any other Sunday, but I don't think there are many "ordinary" days in this family.  Our second son is now in Confirmation class.  Sunday was supposed to be a special entrance rite for him and the other Confirmandae (sp?) entering the first of their two year journey.  However, a last minute scheduling conflict caused the rite to be rescheduled but not all of us were informed.  Since we were not told not to invite the sponsor we did.  I hope their 1 1/2 drive each way from Tulsa was worth going to Mass at our Church.  My son's sponsor's wife is a college professor and this is one of the busiest times of the year for her.  She has to grade papers and turn in grades and then turn in all her syllabi and plans for next semester.  They couldn't even stay for lunch.  It was nice to see them, anyway.  God bless you, Paddy and Mark!

The second Sunday of Advent readings:  Isaiah 11: 1-10; Psalm 72: 1,2, 7,8,12,13, 17; Romans 15:4-9

The Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Let us wait, rejoicing!